Saudi Arabia is not UAE

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Makkah daily

I WAS having coffee with a group of my friends when one of them started talking enthusiastically about NEOM project saying that “it is a copy of Dubai city in Saudi Arabia.” I gently disagreed with my friend and told him that it is a mistake to repeat the same experience of Dubai in the Kingdom, simply because Saudi Arabia, historically, economically and culturally is not UAE.

The elegant UAE dress has its own taste when you are walking in city walk and it has its own beauty when someone is cruising down Shaikh Zayed road. Saudi Arabia has its own style, with the ancient road of Al-Thumairi and Al-Masmak fortress and the modernity of the boulevard. Riyadh is a different city from Dubai, the same way Paris is different from Los Angeles, not because one city is more beautiful than the other but because Paris has its own unique magic.

From my managerial and strategic point of view, the talk about repeating the Dubai experience in Saudi Arabia is a failed idea. No one can compete with Dubai when it comes to attracting thousands of companies and minds from all over the world. They have cut a long distance in that.

Dubai is not a place of tampering, as a man in his 20s may think. Dubai is an integrated system that succeeded in attracting a segment of businessmen and earned the reputation of being the ‘jewel of the Middle East’. I was honored to work with colleagues in Dubai government. Honestly speaking, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashed is a unique character when it comes to management, delegation of authority, accomplishment and persistent ambition. One can imagine that Dubai police are doing marketing work far better than what we see in the private sector locally and internationally. The luxury cars of Dubai police was one of the most successful marketing campaign strategies, despite its cost but it succeeded far beyond expectations. With all that said, I still say Dubai is not Riyadh.

There is a customer who loves Samsung products and at the same time his brother prefers an iPhone.

The administration and marketing logic affirms that the first step toward making NEOM project successful is to identify the segment targeted and what is the joint value between the project and this segment. The slogan of Vision 2030 is “The Arab and Islamic depth ... a pioneering investment force that links the three continents”. This only indicate that the Islamic spirit is present in all future projects. That it why I see it logical to attract Muslim and Arab businessmen. Activating religious tourism is more suitable to Saudi Arabia than marketing and consumption tourism in Dubai. Each one has its own audience. I repeat what I said to my friend here that Saudi Arabia is not UAE and Abu Dhabi is not Riyadh.


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